Patio Plants Logo
Regarding the Weather
My heart goes out to all those affected by the recent flooding. Whether you are dealing with a leaky roof, water in your basement, or more trouble than that, my thoughts and prayers go out to you.

Hopefully you have your home sprinkler system turned off for now. Let the plants be your guide as to when to begin watering again. However, plants can be tricky: they may look droopy both when they are dry and when they are over-watered. The only thing a droopy plant is telling you for sure is that it requires attention. Check the soil moisture with your fingers to determine the solution. Also, container gardens will dry out much more quickly than plants in the ground. Clear skies are forecast for the next few days so you may need to water your potted plants soon.  
Insecticide: Organic Options
Last month, I commented on the importance of proper diagnosis of a pest problem before choosing a treatment option. I'd like to reiterate that and that once you have a diagnosis, CAREFULLY READ THE LABEL before applying any kind of insecticide. Improper dilution or inappropriate application can be very, very harmful to you and the environment around you.

This month I'll give you some information about botanical/natural or organic pesticides. But first, I want to stress that just because an insecticide is labeled "organic" or "natural" DOES NOT MEAN IT'S PERFECTLY SAFE or harmless to the environment. Even natural insecticides should not be applied willy-nilly all over the garden. Please take care and use good judgment for all types of pesticides.

I keep a newsletter archive on my website which may help you identify the pest. Additional resources are listed at the bottom of this page and staff members at our local nurseries are very helpful in identifying pest problems and knowledgeable regarding insecticides.

Here I will briefly discuss the three most common types of organic insecticides.

  • Botanical. In this category is any insecticide which is primarily made from plants. Examples include Pyrethrum (from the Chrysanthemum cinnerariaefolium flower) which is a good broad-spectrum insecticide. Neem Oil (from the tropical Azadirachta tree) is effective against a number of pests including aphids, caterpillars and beetles. Some botanical solutions, such as garlic or hot pepper oil, are really repellents - the pests will leave the plant to which it is applied but are not killed. To make the point that organic/botanical insecticides are still potentially dangerous, Nicotine (from tobacco plants) and Rotenone (from the Derris elliptica plant) are two botanicals which are banned by the EPA because of their toxicity.     
  • Bacteria. There are several types of bacteria that work on pest insects. The most common is Bacillus thuringiensis, commonly referred to as Bt. Bt is target-specific which means it won't kill anything but the one pest for which it's intended. Bt is frequently used against mosquito larvae but there are also Bt strains available which are effective against caterpillars, flies and beetles. Other commonly available and effective bacteria strains are Beauvaria bassiana and Bacillus popilliae
  • Non-carbon based. This term means anything that was not ever living. The category includes mineral derived insecticides such as sodium fluoaluminate and boric acid which are frequently used in traps - like those little black ant traps. Diatomaceous earth is effective against crawling insects, especially slugs. Soaps are included in this category and can be effective against many soft-bodied pests but can cause the plant's leaves to burn. As always, read the label and follow the application instructions carefully. 
If you have concerns or questions about your container gardens or irrigation system, please contact me right away.

Also, if you're considering doing some landscaping work, please call me (970-988-3808) to help you with your landscape design.

This is the final installment for this year's newsletter series "Insects: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly."

Syrphid fly

The Good: Syrphid Flies

Resembling small wasps with a yellow or white striped abdomen, these flies are pollinators and predators. They hover like hummingbirds thus earning the common name Hover Fly. Unable to sting, they are harmless to humans. The larvae looks like a small green caterpillar which can be as small as 1/32" or up to 1/2" depending on development and species. The larvae consume soft-bodies pests such as aphids (their favorite), mealybugs and  small caterpillars. Hover Fly females will only lay eggs on pest-infested plants and the number of eggs laid is dependent on the population of pests. Attract Syrphid Flies to your garden with blooming plants.

The Bad: Grasshoppers
Grasshoppers are green or brown, hatching in March through June. The nymphs look like adults but are smaller and feed voraciously. Mature grasshoppers in the heat of summer are much less vulnerable to pesticides. When cleaning up in the fall and winter, watch for and destroy egg clusters, which can be clusters of 75 or more cream or yellow rice-shaped eggs. Population of grasshoppers varies from year to year and if the current year had a high population, it doesn’t necessarily mean the following year will.

The Ugly: Earwigs

Despite folk tales, earwigs are harmless to humans and have no interest in the ears of livestock. Dark brown and about " to " long, the large rear pincers make them especially ugly. Decomposers, they feed on dead and dying debris and have also been known to eat some pest insects such as aphids and mites.  Leaves of plants eaten by earwigs are chewed around the margins and have ragged holes. Earwigs also like to eat maturing fruits and vegetables by boring holes into the flesh. A tidy garden, free of decaying leaves or other debris, helps to deter earwigs. If they are especially bothersome in your vegetable garden, you can try using a beer trap or a commercially available pesticide dust.

If you're really interested in bugs, here are a few good resources:
  • "Insect." Wikipedia. Wikipedia Foundation, 27 Apr. 2013. Web. 29 Apr. 2013.
  • Walliser, Jessica. Good Bug, Bad Bug: Who's Who, What They Do, and How to Manage Them Organically: All You Need to Know about the Insects in Your Garden. Pittsburgh, PA: St. Lynn's, 2008. Print.
  • Sunset Western Garden Book. Menlo Park, CA: Lane, 1988. Print.
  • Leatherman, David, and Whitney Cranshaw. Insects and Diseases of Woody Plants of the Central Rockies. [Fort Collins, Colo.]: Colorado State University Cooperative Extension, 2000. Print.